Celebrate Black Joy with the True Story of Black Activist Opal Lee and Her Vision of Juneteenth as a Holiday
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Celebrate Black Joy with the True Story of Black Activist Opal Lee and Her Vision of Juneteenth as a Holiday

(Courtesy of Opal Lee)
Children begin forming internal biases about race as early as 3 months old, research from the American Psychological Association tells us. It is essential to give parents resources they can trust that come from people of color and present hard truths of history and the challenges still faced alongside celebrations of the progress made, depictions of black joy, and a hopeful vision for tomorrow.
Author and NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Literary Work for Children, Alice Faye Duncan’s upcoming picture book, Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth (January 11, 2022, Thomas Nelson), celebrates the vision and tenacity of activist Opal Lee with a message of hope, unity, joy, and strength.
As an educator of the Civil Rights Movement, Duncan’s writings have highlighted biographies of Black artists and moments seldom told in American History. Her picture books are known to provide context and education regarding the Black struggle for equal rights in America.
A biographical children’s book, Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free features illustrations from New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo (I Am Enough) and tells the true story of Black activist Opal Lee’s mission to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Told through the voice of Opal Lee, young readers learn about her life as she shares past and present realities with her grandson and his friends at a Juneteenth picnic.
Growing up in Texas, Opal Lee knew the history of Juneteenth, but she discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation’s creed of “freedom for all.” Opal Lee learned from her grandfather that Juneteenth celebrated the day the news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the freedom of slaves finally reached Texas in 1865, more than two years after the president had declared it.
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day and Black Independence Day commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement (Juneteenth.com). Duncan’s book is an educational and artistic resource explaining this holiday and Opal Lee’s experience as a child and woman.
“If we don’t keep a record of history, people will say it never happened,” said Duncan. “I wrote the Opal Lee story to help children remember America’s past, so they won’t repeat the same misdeeds.”
Opal Lee would go on to speak up for equality and unity. She became a teacher, a charity worker, and a community leader. At the age of 89, she walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C., in an effort to gain national recognition for Juneteenth.
Intended for children ages four to eight, Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free teaches children that:
  • all people are created equal
  • the power of bravery and using your voice for change
  • the history of Juneteenth and what it means today
  • no one is free unless everyone is free
  • fighting for a dream is worth every difficulty
Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth (ISBN# 9781400231256) is available for preorder wherever books are sold and releases January 11, 2022.

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